TfL opens up live bus data

Transport for London (TfL) has finally released live bus data, several months after it delivered the Countdown Live Bus Arrivals website

Transport for London (TfL) has finally released live bus data, several months after it delivered the information via its Countdown Live Bus Arrivals website.

Launched in October 2011, Countdown Live Bus Arrivals was procured prior to the advent of its open data digital strategy and so did not include a data feed. TfL said the data feed has been introduced as an extension to the original system. It has been released in a phased manner. The new data feed application programming interface (API) is the latest addition to the service.

Mobile users have been able to download apps to access live bus data based on Countdown Live Bus Arrivals for months, but until now, the only way a third-party developer could extract live bus information was by scraping data off the website. This is not recommended, as it slows down web browsing for normal users.

Torsten Stauch, director at mobile media specialist Red-C, who is the technical lead behind the popular Bus Guru app, welcomed Transport for London’s decision to open up the data and API. 

He expects to go live with a new version of Bus Guru using TfL’s live data feed within two weeks. “There is no rush. The API puts the data in a nice format. TfL wants us to move as quickly as possible. The test period has probably helped TfL to improve its capacity [to support apps],” said Stauch.

Read about other TfL technology advances

TfL said extensive work has been carried out in conjunction with members of the developer community to ensure that the Countdown Live Bus Arrivals API will meet the expectations and demands of a growing market. 

Developers are now able to use its travel information including live bus and tube data, a real-time journey planner API, timetables, locations of piers, planned Tube maintenance works and more to create their own journey planning solutions – each meeting the need of a different audience, TfL said.

Simon Reed, head of technical services group for London Buses, said: "We are delighted to be at the forefront of this policy, providing a supported and proven data feed that will enable innovative applications to deliver Live Bus Arrival information to a wider base than we could reach alone."

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